When we feel down in the dumps, most of us don’t want to do much of anything. Our first inclination is to just chill, maybe sit on the couch and watch some Netflix.
A new study shows that’s exactly the wrong strategy.
Research published in the Journal of Preventive Medicine found two seemingly opposite things that can help you break out of a bad mood: sleep and physical activity.
Researchers had subjects wear an armband for 10 days that tracked their energy expenditure. It measured the time subjects spent sleeping, being sedentary, and being active.
The scientists found that sleeping more was linked to better mood and less stress. Light activity was also associated with better mood.
The study defined “light activity” as anything from standing while preparing a meal to pacing while talking on the phone.
Jacob Meyer is assistant professor of kinesiology at Iowa State University. He led the study.
“Light activity is much lower intensity than going to the gym,” said Professor Meyer.
In addition to moving more to improve your mood, he also recommends going to bed rather than sitting up at night watching TV or being on your computer.
With coronavirus weighing on our minds, “this is one thing we can control or manage and it has the potential to help our mental health,” said Professor Meyer.
Studies Prove the Benefits of Sleep and Exercise
The new study confirms previous research showing that sleep and exercise have powerful mood-boosting effects.
University of Pennsylvania scientists looked at people who were restricted to 4 ½ hours of sleep each night. They became angrier, sad, and stressed. When they resumed having a full night’s sleep, their mood improved.
And a large study backs up the depression-slashing benefits of activity.
The research was published in JAMA Psychiatry. It looked at the question of whether exercise boosts mood or good mood leads to more exercise.
Researchers looked at data from hundreds of thousands of people. They found that moving more actually does improve mood. 
Harvard research fellow Dr. Karmel Choi was the study author. She said that subjects had a 26% decrease in odds for becoming depressed when they replaced 15 minutes of sitting with 15 minutes of running. or one hour of sitting with one hour of moderate activity like walking.” 
But the study showed that “any kind of movement can add up to keep depression at bay,” said Dr. Choi.
“It didn’t say you have to run a marathon, do hours of aerobics, or be a CrossFit master to see benefits on depression,” says Choi.
The bottom line?
Replace wakeful inactivity with sleep and physical activity to ward off depression.
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